Google imposes new penalty on pirate sites in search results

In a move that’s likely to please copyright owners, Google announced it has taken new measures to punish sites that host pirated content by pushing them further down its search listings. The news came as part of a larger overview of the company’s anti-piracy efforts published on Friday as a blog post and in a report titled “How Google Fights Piracy.”

The report, which follows a similar one published a year ago, explains how Google’s algorithm will rely more heavily on repeat “takedown requests” by copyright owners as a signal to demote a site in its search rankings.

“In October 2014, we have improved and refined the DMCA demotion signal in search results, increasing the effectiveness of just one tool rightsholders have at their disposal,” says the report. Google sources confirmed that the statement reflects new measures to punish pirates in search results.

Google also offers a series of metrics intended to reflect its commitment to protecting copyright owners. These include:

  • Booting 73,000 rogue sites from its AdSense program, which allows websites to host ads from Google and share the revenue
  • Removing 222 million webpages from its search results in response to copyright complaints, which amounts to a 99 percent takedown rate
  • An average turnaround time of just 6 hours to remove copyrighted content, despite receiving millions of such requests a day

The company also reiterated its commitment to “rooting out” rogue websites by cutting off their money supply, and its broader philosophy of addressing piracy by providing legal alternatives:

“The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.”

Google also appears to be making strategic use of the report to showcase its ambitions for YouTube, which has come to be a major revenue source for both creators and for Google. The company is rapidly building out its YouTube studios, and has been touting its ContentID model, which allows copyright owners to insert ads and make money when someone else uploads their content.

Earlier this week, YouTube claimed it has paid out over $1 billion since 2007 through ContentID, which now covers over 50,00 partners and 300 million videos.

The new report also emphasized the flip-side of anti-piracy enforcement — abuse of copyright as a tool of censorship. Google gives a list of examples of bad behavior, including a U.S. studio that attempted to use a copyright claim to take down a major newspaper’s movie review.